Review: Justice League: Endless Winter hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

December 5, 2021

 ·  3 comments

I was prepared for Justice League: Endless Winter to be lackluster, given a disconnect from the other events of the DC Universe and by two writers who haven’t been involved with the DCU for a while — not to mention that the book, obviously filler, comes at the end of one big DC event before the start of another.

But after so many years of multiversal hand-wringing — especially with fits and starts, low points and tenuous tie-ins — Andy Lanning and Ron Marz' Endless Winter is great, certainly well better than it has any right to be, and it whets my appetite for what DC could do if they’d give up some of this meta-interpretive navel-gazing and just focused on telling good stories instead. There’s also a host of good artists here, anchored by Howard Porter, which imbues the climactic moments of the story with an air of Grant Morrison’s JLA. Lanning and Marz pinch-hitting on the main Justice League title? I’d be OK with it.

[Review contains spoilers]

Though Endless Winter ducks any mention of Perpetua, the Batman Who Laughs, or Dark Nights: Death Metal (perhaps blessedly but also mildly disappointingly), I was very impressed with how two writers wholly out of the DC mainstream permated this book with current continuity (hat tip to editors including Alex Carr, Jamie Rich, and Mike Cotton). Most unlikely, this book starts out picking up a thread from Gene Luen Yang’s Terrifics, paired with a bit of Brian Michael Bendis' Superman.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

Among the individual parts, the Teen Titans: Endless Winter special and the final issues of Aquaman and Justice League Dark all position the characters well between their official finales, Dark Nights: Death Metal, and what comes next in the Infinite Frontier era. The Titans chapter didn’t have to deal with Kid Flash’s guilt over what happened with Robin Damian Wayne (nor the Justice League’s rejection of the older Titans) any more than the Aquaman chapter needed to bring in Jurok Byss and the Widowhood or the Justice League Dark chapter needed to go to Myrra, but they did. That’s real attention to detail in a relatively low-stakes setting, more attention to detail than we see in higher-stakes books like Death Metal and DC Comics: Generations.

Beyond that, I thought Endless Winter’s story was, again, better than it needed to be. There is a common “heroes fight the bad guy, split to individual stories, then come back to the bad guy in the end” structure, but the writers tie it together well with a flashback narrative specifically drawn throughout by Marco Santucci. This consistency across different issues drawn by different other artists makes the book cohesive, so that the individual spotlights don’t have time to feel choppy.

The high concept of that flashback was a “Viking Justice League,” but I think that’s oversimplifying it; what we actually have is DC’s Viking Prince teamed up with the recognizable Hippolyta, Black Adam, and an ancient Swamp Thing against a specific foe, the Frost King, who also has a depth that belies his generic name. I was entirely convinced by this “previously untold tale” of Hippolyta’s adventures, that she acted the way she did and Black Adam acted the way he did and the controversial choices they made. Even better that the day is ultimately won by peaceful effort and Wonder Woman succeeding where her mother previously faltered.

Obviously a book like this is not going to be totally perfect, but again the problems were nowhere near as severe as I expected. They are writing a jokester Flash Barry Allen that’s really Justice League Unlimited’s Wally West, but that’s more common than rare these days. The writers' use of Catman as a common criminal is suspect, as is their use of Rampage the same (does no one remember STAR Labs Dr. Kitty Faulkner is in there?). The story turns on Superman being way more careless with Kryptonian artifacts than anyone would believe he would be, but that’s a minor sacrifice for the story overall.

Porter’s first issue for Endless Winter includes the superheroes' logos when they first appear, and if that doesn’t give you JLA chills then I don’t know what will. In addition to Santucci, Clayton Henry draws a great Flash; we’re graced with Phil Hester on Superman; Amancay Nahuelpan continues with Justice League Dark; and Carmine Di Giandomenico joins Porter in the end. All that plus a couple wildly weird variant covers by Wonder Woman: Death Earth’s Daniel Warren Johnson; really there’s not a bad looking page in this book.

3.0

Rating

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good multiversal Crisis yarn as much as the next person. But Justice League: Endless Winter proves that just because a book isn’t continuity-altering doesn’t mean it’s simple — Black Adam using the Frost King’s family against him and the Frost King’s fight to get them back proves that. Sometimes you need a Zero Hour, sometimes you need an Eclipso: The Darkness Within — I hope that’s a lesson DC learns from this one.

[Includes original and variant covers, character designs]

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Great insights as always. I have to say, I really enjoyed this. Sure it had a basic story structure that we have seen countless times, but it felt good to read an event where I didn't have to read 30 other titles to know what is going on. It was a nice self contained epic that hit all the right beats. I've always enjoyed Howard Porter's artwork (even more after he had his unfortunate accident and had to learn how to draw all over again). I went in with low expectations, but this title was just so enjoyable from beginning to end....that I remembered when we used to have smaller scale events (that are not Crisis level) and how these can be just as fun to read. I do find it really annoying that this is not the only time that Barry has been used as the comedic or light hearted element. Certainly that's now how Barry was portrayed...and I think I prefer a more toned down version.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think "self-contained" is really key there. A crossover, but where each part directly flows into the next. Smaller scale events — ever read Trinity, the LEGION/Green Lantern/Darkstars crossover? More of that!

      Delete
  2. Yes! Loved Trinity, the LEGION/Green Lantern/Darkstars crossover! Definitely more of that....

    ReplyDelete

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.